I recently had a conversation with Rob Dietz, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) that sparked some thoughts. A little background about me is needed first, though.
After growing up in small town suburbia and graduating from high school I went off to college. This is the standard model in America – “Go forth, get a degree, get a high paying job, become happy!” I was sold on the Dream that all I had to do was go to college, get a job and the world would be my ouster. All I had to do was work hard and be rewarded.
So I did just that, I worked my way through college. Sometimes I worked as much as three jobs while taking a full load of engineer courses. When I graduated I found a job and got to work – got to work paying off my debt. All that work to increase my income just seemed to increase my debt proportionally. I still live at relatively the same standard as I did in college, yet I now have more obligations and owe people money.
My overall happiness has not increased with my income, as I was taught to believe. Surely I will be debt free and enjoying a higher standard of living someday. However, after all that work is it worth the hardship I have placed myself and my family in order to gain that growth?
Rob caught on to this sentiment in our conversation and mentioned something I found illuminating. Growth is a tool, to be used to satisfy some need. In my case I took it upon myself to grow intellectually in order to gain a career and a “better life.” But, do we as a society still need growth? (in the developed world, that is)
Our economy (our world) has been functioning in a growth-centered fashion for many decades. Growing our GDP is done so in order to make a better standard of living for ourselves and create (some would argue maintain) our happiness. For a while it succeeded at increasing our standard of living and happiness.
However, somewhere along the line it began to fail. We have been down this path for so long that now we only see the means (growth) and fail to see the ends (happiness). This is because the ends are no longer found, we just grow aimlessly. Let us just ask ourselves what is the growth really for anymore?
I want your feedback on this subject.